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I Think I Have OCD. What Should I Do?

I'm 13. Ever since I can remember, I've had strange habits like tapping my fingers. Now I always spell words I hear using my fingers. This affects my concentration at school and slows my reading and writing. My friends notice it and my mom gets irritated when I do it, so I started spelling it in my head. Do I have OCD? If so, will it be OK if I write a note to my doctor and give it to her at my next visit? I feel too embarrassed to talk about it.
- Yolanda*

The habits you describe could be signs of OCD, especially since you say that they interfere with your concentration, slow down your writing at school, and happen often enough to be noticeable and irritating to others. OCD is more common than many people think.

Continuing to give in to the habits can strengthen them, which can lead to developing other habits too. The good news is that symptoms like this can get better. But it's going to take a big effort on your part to resist the urge you feel to perform the habits. It will take commitment and willingness to let these habits go. Often, that's easier said than done, because the urge can feel intense!

It may feel quite uncomfortable not to do what you've been used to doing — and tough to stop the spelling. That's why people can benefit from a health professional's guidance on how to resist habits successfully.

Talking to a parent and your doctor is a good idea. (It's OK to pass your doctor a note if you have a hard time bringing up the topic.) A doctor or therapist can help you be certain whether you are dealing with OCD, and provide proper guidance and support for how to free yourself from these habits. Plenty of others your age have dealt with this successfully, and you can, too!

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: February 2013

*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.